(WNY News Now) – In a groundbreaking initiative, the state of New York has unveiled plans for the establishment of the State Weather Risk Communication Center (SWRCC) at the University at Albany. This pioneering venture represents a unique collaboration between university researchers and state emergency managers, aiming to enhance decision-making processes in the face of severe weather events.
Albany, N.Y. – The SWRCC, supported by an annual investment of $1.5 million from the state, will serve as a hub for critical weather information and the development of innovative tools. The primary objective is to empower emergency managers with timely and informed decision-making capabilities, ultimately bolstering community protection measures. Additionally, the center will scrutinize existing communication strategies regarding extreme weather risks, seeking avenues for improvement.
The initiative will leverage high-quality forecasts from the National Weather Service (NWS) and supplementary data from the New York State Mesonet. This collaborative effort will yield decision-support products tailored to the specific needs of emergency managers. For instance, during the recent September storm that inundated New York City with over seven inches of rain in 24 hours, the SWRCC could have generated real-time maps integrating advanced weather observations with data on the city’s sewer infrastructure, aiding in pinpointing flood-prone areas and optimizing evacuation plans.
Furthermore, the SWRCC’s resources and expertise will extend beyond state-level emergency managers, offering support to various public entities in New York, including school superintendents requiring guidance on weather-related decisions such as school closures.
During periods of normal weather, the SWRCC will collaborate with the state to provide emergency weather training, workshops, and post-event analyses of weather emergencies. The center will be housed within the University at Albany’s ETEC building, strategically located alongside the National Weather Service’s Albany Office and adjacent to key resources within ETEC, including the xCITE laboratory and the New York State Mesonet.
The $1.5 million annual investment from New York State will facilitate the funding of approximately 10 full-time positions, hourly student employment, internship opportunities, and collaboration with the Mesonet to develop new data computing products. This financial support will also contribute to the acquisition of equipment for the center’s operational hub.
Importantly, the SWRCC will operate in tandem with a $3 million federal grant awarded to the University for the Exploitation of Mesonets for Emergency Preparedness and Response in Weather Extremes (EMPOWER) project. This dual-pronged approach underscores the comprehensive commitment to leveraging cutting-edge technology and expertise for effective weather risk communication and emergency preparedness.
The SWRCC marks a significant stride toward proactive and collaborative measures to mitigate the impact of severe weather events in New York State, setting a precedent for innovative approaches to weather risk management nationwide.